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Woman travels more that 100km to witness hearings

As the TRRC’s hearings continued to capture the interest of all sections of our society, it was with delight that we welcomed a surprise visitor to the TRRC yesterday, Monday June 24th. Mrs. Emily Nying, a local women’s Association president from Kaur area paid her own fare to visit the TRRC and witness a hearing session of the Commission at Dunes Resort in Kololi. Mrs Nying said the visit was a lifetime experience. She told members of our Communications unit that she actively participated in the selection process of one of the Commissioners, (Imam Abdurahman Sey) from CRR.

Asked what motivated her to take the long trip, Mrs. Nying said Gambia is worthy to her than anything in life, “because of the love I have for this nation, I can’t be satisfied to watch the hearings only on TV but I said I must witness it live as a life time experience“.

Interestingly, she told the TRRC staff who welcomed her that when she proposed to take the trip, her siblings and close friends told her that she needed a ticket to get access to the hearings, so she came prepared to get a ticket. She said she was happily surprised to learn at the gates that there is no such requirement.

Asked how she felt after witnessing a live session, Mrs. Nying said she felt very emotional to learn that such gruesome rights violations actually happened in the Gambia and most remarkably women were not spared.

I can’t believe these things actually happened here before but sitting a few meters from a woman victim as she narrated her ordeal made me believed that things were definitely not well in this country” an emotional Mrs. Nying said.

As an influential community leader, she was asked about her advice to the Gambian nation and she had this to say:

every Gambian should learn from this exercise of the TRRC that every action or inaction while executing their duties, has consequences someday, somewhere. As an individual, it makes me become very very cautious in my dealings with others“.

She also recommended that the duty bearers respect the civil and political rights of citizens and safeguard the rule of law as a guarantee to the #NeverAgain mantra.

The TRRC would like to thank Mrs Nying for recognising the significance of the TRRC’s work and her confidence in it. We would like to also clarify to the public that the TRRC hearings are free and open to the public. Access to the hearings is absolutely free and all you need to have with you is a form of identification.

Statement of the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission

The Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) has issued multiple subpoenas to Mr Yankuba Touray to appear before the Commission to testify as a person adversely mention for his involvement in human rights violations between 1994 and 1996. All those subpoenae where postponed and the last subpoena was issued on the 24th day of June 2019 for his appearance and testimony before the Commission today the 26thday of June 2019.

Chairman Dr Lamin Sise

During a meeting this morning between Mr Touray, the chairman and the Commission’s staff members, Mr Touray indicated his refusal to honour the subpoena. He is presently within the premises of the TRRC, but as has just been seen, he has clearly refused to appear and testify before the Commission pursuant to the subpoena. Mr Yankuba Touray claims that he has immunity from prosecution for all human rights violations that occurred between 1994 and 1997. It must be noted however that even if this immunity claim were to be accepted – which is not the case – he cannot lawfully refuse to appear before the Commission and answer questions that do not directly violate the immunity he claims.

Mr Yankuba Touray has also been informed on several occasions that failure to respect a subpoena issued by the TRRC constitutes a contempt of court and is therefore liable to be referred to the High Court for prosecution. In light of this, the Commission has to act firmly and within the parameters of the law to ensure that actions of this nature are dealt with, with the full force of the law. I therefore have no choice but to order the immediate arrest of Mr Yankuba Touray pursuant to section 15(1)h and 15(2)b of the TRRC Act 2017 and to hand him over forthwith to the police station that has jurisdiction over offences within this area and a referral be submitted as soon as possible to the Attorney General Chambers for Prosecution of Mr Yankuba Touray at the High Court.

ISSUED THIS 26th DAY OF JUNE 2019

Dr Lamin Sise

THE CHAIRMAN, TRRC

RECONCILIATION IFTAR

The TRRC on Thursday 30th May, 2019 provided “Iftar” to the Brikama and Pipeline Mosque communities as part of a wider initiative of engaging religious communities, both Muslim and Christian.

The activities are part of the Commission’s work in promoting Peace Building and Reconciliation. 
Tomorrow the team will be at Bakau and Latrikunda Sabiji and on Saturday will be visiting mosques in Banjul.

Speaking at the Pipeline Mosque, TRRC Commissioner Imam Ousainou Jallow who is also the Chairman of the Reconciliation Committee at the Commission thanked the United Nations transitional justice program in The Gambia for supporting the initiative. He said that considering the role of religion amongst Gambians, it is critical that we engage and initiate conversations of peace, tolerance and reconciliation amongst ourselves and occasions like Ramadan offer special opportunity for that.

He thanked members of the community for welcoming the TRRC and asked for continued prayers so that the process of the TRRC will be guided.

Meanwhile in Brikama, the TRRC delegation was led by vice chairperson Ms Adelaide Sosseh. They were received by the Imam of Brikama Alh Sankung Touray, members of the mosque committee and council of elders. Ms sosseh in a brief speech expressed gratitude to the Imam and the elders for accepting to receive TRRC at the Brikama Central mosque. She spoke of the urgent need to reconcile the country following the 22 years of misrule.

The Imam of Brikama also expressed delight in receiving TRRC and underlined the importance of healing and reconciliation in the development of the country. TRRC chief reconciliation officer Tabu Sarr Njie earlier spoke of the important role of Imams play in peace building and reconciliation.

The TRRC will continue this initiative of engage with mosques and churches around the country.

PORTRAITS FOR POSITIVE CHANGE

Following their exhibition at the British High Commission on Tuesday, international photo journalists Jason and Helen Florio today handed over their work to the TRRC in a ceremony done by Her Excellency the British High Commissioner, Sharon Wardle.

Helen and Jason are documentary photographers and have worked in the Gambia for almost 20 years. Their project “Portraits for Positive Change” chronicles the story of victims and survivors of the 22 years of dictatorship in the The Gambia.

Speaking at the handing over ceremony, High Commissioner Wardle noted that the portraits are not about negativity but aims to promote positive change. While telling the story of victims, it also testifies to their resilience and can help Gambians in remembering and standing firm for “Never Again”. She added that the material will also help enhance the TRRC outreach activities which aim to engage people across the country.

Ms. Adelaide Sosseh, Deputy Chairperson of the Commission thanked High Commissioner Wardle as well as Jason and Helen for their love and continued support of The Gambia in our pursuit for positive change. She highlighted that the portraits are a powerful visual tool for giving survivors and victims a voice and to engage people in the TRRC’s never again campaign. She added that these photographs will form a nucleus of the Museum that the TRRC intends to setup at the end of its work, as a legacy and a remembrance of the human rights violations that occurred here, as well as a reminder that never again should we allow such things to happen in this country again.

On the part of the photographers, Jason said “As photo journalists, our aim is not just to document and create a record of events but to use our photographs as a tool for positive change and advocacy – giving a platform for the victims and their families, where they can be seen, heard, and honoured”.

The exhibition will be publicly displayed at the TRRC’s exhibition room and hearing hall and will also feature as part of the TRRC outreach activities countrywide.

TRRC NEEDS ASSESSMENT WORKSHOP

The TRRC in collaboration with with UNTJ, Tango, POLICE, UNICEF, CRS, GPU among others, held a Needs Assessment Workshop on 2nd and 3rd May, to look at various aspects of our setup and identifying areas for improvement and strategising.

Group photo of participants

TRRC Update: The Journey So Far

The TRRC ended its fourth three-week session of hearings on Thursday, April 25, 2019. During this session, 16 witnesses testified before the Commission, bringing the total number of witnesses to testify since January 7, 2019 to 57. A significant number of these witnesses are former or current members of the Gambian security services. Seven of the hearings were held with Diaspora Gambians via video conferencing. One hearing was held in camera and another was that of a protected witness. At least eight women have so far voluntarily testified before the Commission, most of them widows of the November 11, 1994 incident. The hearings during this fourth session yielded valuable evidence on circumstances surrounding the July 22, 1994 coup, the November 11 and Koro Ceesay incidents, and a 1996 incident at Denton Bridge involving supporters of the UDP. The Commission will hear more testimonies on these issues when sittings resume on June 10. It is also anticipated that time permitting, the Commission will hold its first Institutional hearing on the media during the fifth session which ends on June 28, 2019.

The TRRC experienced a significant milestone when our team of investigators discovered and exhumed the remains of seven victims of the November 11, 1994 incident at Yundum Barracks. The seven were among an estimated 14 soldiers summarily executed and buried in mass graves during the November 11 incident. Once the suspected grave sites were pointed out by witnesses and before the search for the remains started, members of all 14 families of the November 11 victims were invited several times to our offices for conversations, sensitization and counselling on the process, expectations and related issues. Victims’ families were also requested to provide any ante-mortem data they remembered to help in the subsequent identification of discovered remains. Information on things like body marks, dental features and clothing the victims wore were collected by our teams. All 14 families were also invited to the viewing of the exhumed remains at Yundum Barracks. On all occasions, the TRRC reimbursed the cost of travel to all family members attending these sessions. We will continue engaging these and other families as together we try to get justice, closure and healing for our loved ones and our country. As at the time of this update, our team of investigators continue their search for November 11 remains at Yundum Barracks.

Experiences from other jurisdictions suggest that many truth commissions find it extremely difficult if not impossible to persuade alleged perpetrators to willingly come forward to give their statements, testify on their alleged wrongdoings and shed light on crimes and human rights violations that occurred in the past. The TRRC is proving to be an exception to this rule. So far, at least nine alleged perpetrators have voluntarily come forward and testified on their alleged participation in the commission of crimes. On Wednesday 24th and Thursday 25th April, the TRRC had its most high profile alleged perpetrator yet with the appearance before the Commission of former AFPRC Vice Chairman Sanna Sabally. Sabally’s appearance came after he was served with a Notice of Adverse Mention in Dakar and subsequently accepted our invitation to come testify before the Commission. No conditions or guarantees of amnesty were attached to his appearance. We are hoping that other adversely mentioned persons will voluntarily come forward to testify. Barring a voluntary offer to testify, the TRRC may subsequently invite and if necessary subpoena these persons to appear before the Commission. We have issued one subpoena requiring one adversely mentioned person to appear before the Commission during the fifth session.

We are happy to report that about two weeks ago, the TRRC received the long-awaited medical reports for all nine victims initially referred to the Medical Board set up at our request by the Ministry of Health in November, 2018. These included four victims of the April 10 / 11 student massacre and five victims of the April / May 2016 incident involving the arrests of Solo Sandeng and other persons. A copy of their individual reports has been made available to all victims and we have started working on how best to ensure that they get the treatment and care they need and deserve. We have so far been in touch with individuals and both national and international institutions with a view to facilitating access to treatment for these victims either at home or abroad. We are also in the process of setting up a Victim Support Fund to supplement whatever reparations funds are provided by the Gambia Government through the Ministry of Justice. A TRRC policy on reparations is at an advanced stage of formulation.

As part of our Never Again campaign, the TRRC continues to be engaged in robust outreach activities with the objective of supporting victims and fostering our national conversation on what went wrong, why it went wrong, and how best to prevent a recurrence of dictatorship and human rights violations in this country. During this fourth session, our Youth and Children’s Network Unit visited Kotu, Muslim, Kanifing East, and Brufut senior secondary schools. This is in addition to the 32 schools visited countrywide since November 2018. Meanwhile, the TRRC continues to sponsor students from various senior secondary schools in the Greater Banjul Area, the UTG, MDI, GTTI and other learning institutions to sit in on our hearings as a way of getting them involved in the process and getting their feedback on our work and their experiences. Our Reconciliation, Women’s Affairs, and Communications units have also conducted at least five town hall meetings and village dialogues, and at least four Women’s Listening Circles across the country. At least three outreach activities have so far been dedicated to survivors of Ex-President Jammeh’s sham Alternative AIDS Treatment Program. The Commission has also visited one village community that was a victim of Jammeh’s 2009 witch hunts. We expect to hold hearings on both the AIDS treatment program and the witch hunts before the end of this year. We are pleased to say that the TRRC was an active participant and co-sponsor of the 2019 Brufut Marathon.

As we work towards the fifth session, we wish to invite all victims and all persons who were directly or indirectly affected by, or have information on any human rights violations between July 22, 1994 and December 1996 to please come forward and give their statements. Witnesses and victims unable to make the trip to Dunes Resort are encouraged to call 9348929 / 2949170 / 2590391 / 5086200 and arrangements will be made to take their statements. Women are particularly encouraged to come forward and give statements according to modalities that preserve their safety and dignity and protect them from stigmatization and retaliation. The TRRC offers a modest reimbursement of transportation and other minor expenses to witnesses and victims travelling from other parts of the country to give their statements. Meanwhile, we wish to make clear that while there will be no hearings until June 10, the TRRC remains open for business.

Finally, we wish to take this opportunity to assure the general public that rumors making the rounds that Lead Counsel Essa Faal has resigned or been sacked from the TRRC are just that – rumors. Equally false are rumors that the Christian community is engaged in a fight with the TRRC or its Chairman. The TRRC remains intact and at peace with itself and with the Gambian public. While welcoming and embracing the general public’s enthusiastic engagement with the TRRC process, our Commissioners and staff remain one big family of friendly colleagues dedicated to the actualization of our mandate. We are confident that the crippling in-fighting among commissioners and staff of some truth commissions around the world will never happen at the TRRC. We continue to seek the understanding, support and blessings of the general public.

#NeverAgain.

TRRC update: Search for the disappeared

A TRRC team led, by the Research & investigations Unit which has been engaged with searching for the remains of victims of November 11 1994 at Yundum Barracks has discovered the remains of seven victims believed to have been the officers of the GNA killed during the November 11 incident. The discovery comes after close to two weeks of digging. Members of the media and families of victims attended the scene of the exhumations. The chairman of the TRRC, Dr. Lamin J. Sise, other commissioners as well as senior members of the TRRC visited the site this morning.

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Remembering April 10th and 11th, 2000

As part of its mandate, the TRRC is committed to supporting the welfare of survivors of Human rights violations and abuses in collaboration with other stakeholders and partners. In light of this role, it is imperative that the TRRC supports initiatives that will raise awareness about survivors of human rights abuses, help to boost their participation in the Transitional Justice process and help give them a voice or help amplify that voice. As such, the TRRC in partnership with the Brufut Marathon Association, Gambia Centre for Victims of Human Rights Violations (Victims’ Centre), the Human Rights Commission, the April 10 & 11 Foundation, TANGO, UTG Students’ Union and other CSOs, supported an initiative by survivors of April 10/11 2000, to commemorate the Student massacre which happened on that date in 2000. As part of the commemorations, a solidarity walk was organised on the 10th of April, a symposium titled JUSTICE RECONCILIATION AND NON-REOCCURRENCE on the 11th (to discuss the importance of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly as well as measures of safeguarding these rights, using the incident of April 10th 2000 as a backdrop) and finally the silver jubilee of the Brufut marathon was also dedicated to remembering April 10th and 11th 2000 (Run for justice and Reconciliation.

Women’s dialogue

The Women’s Unit of the TRRC & the Women Commissioners, supported by the UN Transitional Justice Project, have been on the road holding dialogues with women across the country in relation to the work of the TRRC and the importance of women’s participation in the process. Yesterday we were in Janjanbureh and today we are in Bureng.

Press Release: International Women’s Day 2019 #BalanceForBetter

On this auspicious occasion of the international women’s day celebration, the Women Affaires Unit of the Truth Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) joins the rest of the world to celebrate the achievements and contributions of women to the socio-economic development of the Gambia.

Annually, March 8 serves as a day to reflect on the success- stories and strives of women, the value of women in our societies and the impact of the efforts of women in the development of our societies, and as role models to our younger generation. Despite constituting more than 50% of The Gambia’s population, women remain under-represented in parliament, Boardrooms and in other high-level positions. This forms the crux of the 2019 International Women’s Day celebration theme #BalanceforBetter, advocating for more inclusion of women in all spheres of national development.

The Women’s Affairs Unit of the TRRC reaffirms its commitment to gender equality, advocating for equal rights, responsibilities and opportunities for women to balance the gender roles and mainstreaming of women issues in all spheres of national development. Most importantly, to see an increase in the number of women witnesses and or victims, and to safeguard their interest and protection during the TRRC process.

The theme for 2019’s celebration is #BalanceforBetter, a call for gender balance and women empowerment. Women in the Gambia have been inspirational in their various fields of work given the limited opportunities they have. They have further been breaking barriers by engaging in blue collar jobs that were male dominated. This gives a clear indication of the potentials of women that when given the opportunity they will succeed in further increasing the economy of the country for the better. The patriarchal structure of our society limits the rights and opportunities of women. However, Gambian Women are known for their wisdom, strength and determination in independently working for a living, while at the same time being caregivers in their homes and communities.

Despite the achievements registered, the rights of women have been violated in various forms during the past two decades of dictatorship. From being accused of witchcraft, to being sexually abused by public officials and actors of the state, women experienced some of the worse human rights violations in The Gambia. The TRRC under its mandate, seeks to ascertain the truthful accounts of these violations and abuses and to provide appropriate support to promote healing. For the TRRC, inclusion of women in its process is paramount. We therefore take this opportunity to encourage women to come out and narrate their stories. Our doors shall remain open throughout this process.

The women’s unit at the TRRC, hereby wishes all the women of the Gambia a Happy international Women’s Day 2019. #NEVERAGAIN

TRRC/ICTJ National Youth Caravan on Transitional Justice, February 4 – 13, 2019

by Cherno Gaye, Youth Empowerment Officer, TRRC

1)Executive summary

The International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) in partnership with the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) embarked on a ten-day nationwide youth caravan intended to use music, poetry and art as sensitization tools on transitional justice and nation-building. The theme of the caravan was “#OurNationOurVoice”. This was translated into Fula, Mandinka, Wollof and Jola and was made into a song by artists Awa Bling, Boobo Dimo and Yabse. The theme was also printed on the T-Shirts that the people on the caravan wore. Three regions were targeted: Upper River Region, (Basse and its surrounding villages), Central River Region (Janjanbureh and its surrounding villages) and North Bank Region (Farafenni and its surrounding villages).

2)Background On Monday 4th of February, the caravan left from Kombo to Basse with a group comprised of young people from different life pursuits and interests including activists, poets, musicians, and comedians. The ICTJ country rep (Joanna Rice), two staff from the TRRC (Cherno Gaye and Lala Touray of the Youth and Children’s Network Coordination Unit), three DJs and three drivers were also part of the team. On the 7th February the African Center for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS) also joined the caravan along with the TRRC’s Community Outreach Coordinator Imran Darboe. The ACDHRS added a sports component to the caravan activities.

The caravan arrived at Basse on Monday evening, On Tuesday, Joanna Rice and a couple of other people went out to meet and inform the Alkalos of four villages around Basse that we intended to visit on Wednesday, of our presence and to seek their support in mobilizing villagers the next day. The rest of the team visited Nasir Senior Secondary School and St. George’s Senior Secondary School to engage students. In the evening, members of the caravan (Cherno Gaye, Lala Touray, Joanna Rice and Boobo Dimo) went to two of the community radios in Basse for an hour-long radio program at each station. The radio discussions centered around the mandate of the TRRC, the role of the ICTJ in the transitional justice process of the country, the importance of the #NeverAgain Campaign as well as the role of art, music, poetry and comedy in particular, in helping spread the message to all the people of this country.

On Wednesday the 6th of February the team visited four villages around Basse beginning with Gambisara, then to Sotuma Samba, Sotuma Sire and Alunghareh. The team distributed fliers, played music through the villages and held a dialogue session at each village’s Bantaba attended by the Alkalo, village elders, women and youth. Discussions focused on what the transitional justice process is about, why it is happening and what role the ordinary people have to play as far this process is concerned. The various institutions set up to see this process through were touched on, with the TRRC particularly cited as one of these fundamental institutions. The greater part of the discussion was centered on the role of the people in helping achieve the #NeverAgain Campaign, their rights and responsibilities as citizens and their duty to hold government accountable and protect democracy. After the opening statements in each village, villagers picked up the mike to voice out their thoughts and opinions, while some had questions. Most of the speakers expressed agreement with the fact that since power belongs to the people, it is important that we use it to our advantage, by selecting leaders who have our interest at heart. They also condemned in strong terms, tribalism and un-civil political divisions. The discussions were followed by the artists performing songs they recorded for the caravan.

On the 7th of February, ACDHRS and the outreach coordinator of the TRRC joined the caravan, adding sports to the activities of the tour. The sports component was funded by ACDHRS and a basketball and volleyball competition was organized at Basse Youth Center in the evening, which was then followed by a free concert by a combination of local artists and those on the caravan. Cherno Gaye and Lala Touray recited poems, Awa Bling, Boobo Dimo, Yabse and finally the Bright Stars Entertainment crew each performed their specially made songs on varied aspects of transitional justice. All in all, it was a successful event. Our message was sent through, the people were entertained and refreshed, and in the end, our stay in URR was a success.

On the 8th the caravan left Basse for Janjanbureh, where the same format as in Basse was repeated. The villages visited were Yorro Biri Kunda, Boraba and Sankuleh Kunda. We also had a radio program at Bansang on the 8th and on the final day we had a football match between Armitage Senior Secondary School and the Community followed by a concert.

The caravan then headed to Farafenni on the 11th. We visited the villages of Noo Kunda, Illiasa and Yallal. A football and volleyball match were organized on the final day, 13th, followed by a big concert on the night. The caravan left Farafenni to return to Kombo on Thursday Morning having completed a successful nationwide tour.

3)Places reached

Upper River Region –Gambisara, Sotuma Samba, Sotuma Sire, Alunghareh

Central River Region – Sankuleh-Kunda, Yerro Biri, KundaBoraba

North Bank Region –Noo kunda, Iliasa, Yallal

4)Results/findings

·The artists in the persons of Awa Bling, Boobo Dimo, Yabse, and the Bright Stars Crew were exceptionally instrumental in the mobilization and sensitization of the people in the communities visited. Their songs captured the entire purpose of the caravan tour, enabling us to reach the people in a way that speeches and discussions could never reach them. Bright Starts Entertainment Crew in particular were so influential during these ten days. We are convinced that the TRRC should engage them more often in its outreach activities.

· The Caravan was able to meet at least 3000 people (conservative estimate) directly in three communities. Coupled with the social media hype of the tour and radio programs, the indirect reach should be over 6000 people.

· Some communities have victims who need to be sensitized on why they should come forward as witnesses to the TRRC

5)Recommendations from the visited communities

From the community engagements, a lot of points and questions were raised. It a nutshell, the following recommendations capture the general gist of the main points that were made by the communities.

1. The transitional Justice institutions should warn government to consider the economic situation of the rural communities if they want a united Gambia

2. People who have been wronged and denied things that were their rights should have restitution

3. For the TJ process to be a success, rural communities should not be treated as secondary citizens any longer

4. Ways should be found in the TJ process, to separate the president or president’s name from groups like the “Green boys/Barrow Youth for national development” etc., on which national resources are sometimes spent

5. There is no access to GRTS in some communities though they can get Senegalese stations. This should be addressed if citizens are expected to know what’s going on in the country and be aware of current affairs and civic education.

6. Youth should do more engagements like the youth caravan, in order to make people more aware.

7. More outreach on role of citizens in constitutional democracy is needed, particularly on what steps communities or individuals can take to address infringements to their constitutional rights.

8. Police officers along the route and in the communities requested for TRRC/TJ T-shirts as they are also part of the Nation and can promote the objectives of the commission and TJ process

EVENTS

TRRC Commissioner Training

September 10, 2018

Truth Commission Training Of Commissioners and Senior Staff of the TRRC

TRRC Town Hall – Serrakunda

September 22, 2018

Townhalls are community conversations with the TRRC open to all citizens. Gambians from all walks of life are welcome and encouraged to share their hopes, concerns and perspectives on the our recent past and our collective efforts to shape a better future.

Women’s Listening Circle

September 29, 2018

The TRRC and its Commissioners will be hosting Women’s Listening Circles. These events are specially designated places for women to discuss the challenges they faced under the Jammeh regime due to being a women or girl.  This is a place for Gambian women together to find new voice.

Young Voices Campaign: Constituent Assembly

October 06, 2018

Gambia’s young leaders are driving positive change in our nation. The energy, determination and creativity they commit to the new Gambian embodies the ‘Never Again’ work of the TRRC. 

To capture young voices and engage young leaders in our work, the TRRC is hosting a Constituent Assembly in coordination with our partners from the youth movement. Over two days, young leaders will be elected by their peers to join the TRRC in Kombo to share their views, concerns, aims and commitments for the Gambian transitional justice process. 

​This event is in collaboration with the National Youth Council, TANGO, ICTJ and the UNDP.